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Jump Start Kansas at McPherson College Gives Grants to Entrepreneurial High School Students

A 3-D scanner for cars, a unique food truck, a drone registration venture, and a traveling Yoga studio may sound like ideas experienced entrepreneurs would pitch to venture capitalists.

On Tuesday, March 1, however, the entrepreneurs were teenagers and the “investor” was McPherson College in the annual Jump Start Kansas competition.

McPherson College started Jump Start Kansas in 2012 as a part of its entrepreneurship initiative, which fosters the entrepreneurial mindset of innovation, creativity and daring in its students – regardless of major.

Because MC believes entrepreneurs come in all forms, in all careers, and at basically any age, Jump Start Kansas was established to encourage and reward high school entrepreneurs with grants of up to $500 for them to explore and develop their ideas.

This year, McPherson College received more than 60 ideas, of which 22 students (with 20 proposals) were invited to campus to pitch their concepts and have a shot at one of the no-strings-attached cash rewards.

Michael Schneider, President of McPherson College, pointed around the room as he welcomed the finalists to campus, indicating some of the faculty who were judges from across the educational curriculum – business, history, science, art.

Schneider, who started early as an entrepreneur and always worked for small organizations, told the students he knew some people in their lives wouldn’t understand their ideas and entrepreneurship. But that’s not the case at MC.

“I get it, and we get it at McPherson College,” he said. “You all should attend college, whether or not it is McPherson.”

Lina Saulters of Topeka, Kan., was one of the finalists who presented Tuesday with her business idea of “B.G. House” or “Boxing Gym House.” Saulters said she’s learned self-control and stress release from boxing.

“It is a way to control your nerves, to balance what’s out of balance,” she said. “You have to know who you’re fighting against, and sometimes it’s yourself.”

Autumn Blomberg of Wichita, Kan., proposed a unique food truck concept called “Munchie Mania” which would sport a design similar to the “Mystery Machine” van familiar to anyone who has ever seen the “Scooby-Doo” cartoon. In addition to daily soup and sandwich specials for customers to mix and match, she would also offer snacks of unlikely food combinations – such as a shake and French fries or pickles and peanut butter (the duo that spurred Blomberg’s idea). She expects that word of mouth will provide much of her advertising.

“They’re going to bring back their friends and say, ‘This seems really weird, but you’ve got to try this,’” Blomberg said.

Schneider encouraged the finalists to be vigilant and chase their passions.

“I hope you keep going,” he said. “I want you to keep pursuing your ideas. Every single one of you inspired me. Not only do you have great ideas, but you’re pursuing them in such a smart way.”

Dr. Ken Yohn, professor of history, was one of the judges for Jump Start Kansas and said he loves meeting young entrepreneurs

“I love it when students get to talk about dreams,” Yohn said. “We’re in the dream business.”

In addition to Saulters and Blomberg, the finalists for Jump Start Kansas were:

  • Kaleigh Hughes, Bel-Aire, Kan.: Denim Destroyer – a custom clothing business where customers select an item of denim clothing and the item is “destroyed” or distressed to the customer’s specifications to result in a unique piece of fashionable clothing.
  • Ubaldo Mendez, Dodge City, Kan.: Mendez plans to start a heating and air conditioning (HVAC) business serving Southwest Kansas, but with a special focus of serving non-English speaking communities. He will begin with Spanish-speakers and eventually plans to expand into K’iche (a Mayan language of Guatemala) and Swahili (spoken in many countries of Southeast Africa).
  • Zane Storlie, Haysville, Kan.: Start an home video editing service focused on serving small businesses or individuals with a limited budget.
  • Vanessa Ramirez, Independence, Mo.: Develop 3-D glasses for movies that will allow non-English speakers to be able to see subtitles in their own language only for them, so it will not creating a distraction to other movie-goers.
  • Sierra Cargill, Isabel, Kan.: The Glam Shack is an existing boutique store carrying clothing and jewelry that Cargill is planning to develop on a larger scale.
  • Jhavea Dunlap, Kansas City, Mo.: Plans to start a business selling her home-made jewelry, with 10 percent of her profits going to the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation. She is naming the business “Lizzy’s Jewels” after her grandmother, who passed away.
  • Kaleigh Cobb, Liberal, Kan.,: Create an online “Bowtique” where customers can purchase unique hair bows.
  • Rashida Davis, Liberal, Kan.: A business selling smoothie drinks made only from fresh fruit.
  • Isaac Wilson, Maize, Kan.: Create a mobile app called “Grocery Tracker” that uses GPS to guide customers to the location of groceries and other products to their location on the shelf in stores.
  • Cole Leister, Salina, Kan.: FiveUp – an advertising business using surveys on Facebook not only to advertise, but also to give his clients more information about their consumers.
  • Leister and Tanner Vanamburg, Salina, Kan.: Create and sell custom-printed registration numbers for remote-control drones, now that the Federal Aviation administration has recently begun requiring drones to be registered and the number displayed on the device.
  • Shelby Bonn, Shawnee, Kan.: Shelby plans to create a “car scanner” which would be able to both X-ray the inside of a car and create a 3-D scan of it to spot damage a vehicle down to 2mm.
  • Angelica-Aveé J. Brown, Topeka, Kan.: “Simply Aveé” – a business selling unique, handcrafted, crocheted blankets and hand-made fleece Teddy bears.
  • Mikayla Shields, Topeka, Kan.: A business to creatively display poetry as an artistic wall-hanging to give as a present for any occasion.
  • Micah Carey, Dante Bonomini, and Mac Trible, Whitewater, Kan.: Develop a product called the “Towl Rack” which quickly dries bath or hand towels to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Devin Brady, Wichita, Kan.: Develop an app called InfoPic that will allow people to take a picture on their cell phone of any item and quickly find useful information about it by comparing the image to existing pictures already on the Internet.
  • Jaydon Marquez, Wichita, Kan.: Start an app and connected business called “Truck for a Buck” connecting people who own pickups or other vehicles with towing room to rent their services out to those who need a small moving job.
  • Cheyenne Thompson, Wichita, Kan.: Namaste – a traveling yoga studio that travels to customers, allowing them to decide when and where they practice yoga.